Cover image for To Siberia
To Siberia
Petterson, Per, 1952-
Personal Author:
Uniform Title:
Til Sibir. English
Publication Information:
London : Harvill Press, 1998.
Physical Description:
247 pages ; 20 cm
General Note:
"First published in Norway with the title Til Sibir by Oktober Forlag, Oslo, in 1996"--T.p. verso.
Format :


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X Adult Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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A study of the relationship between brothers and sisters, with the narrator looking back to her childhood, when she was heavily influenced by her brother Jesper. As she looks back, she reflects on the harsh reality of her life and the direction it led her.

Author Notes

Per Petterson was born in Norway on July 18, 1952. He is a trained librarian and before becoming a full-time writer, he worked as a bookstore clerk, translator and literary critic. His first work, Aske i munnen, sand i skoa (Ash in His Mouth, Sand in His Shoe), a volume of short stories, was published in 1987. His other works include These are Ekkoland (1989), Det er greit for meg (1992), and To Siberia (1996). He has won numerous awards including the prestigious Norwegian literary prize Brageprisen for In the Wake (2000) and the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize in the UK, the Norwegian Booksellers' Prize, and the Norwegian Critics' Award for best novel for Out Stealing Horses (2003).

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

Evoking the severe beauty of the tundra his heroine dreams of, Petterson's second novel fashions a subtle stoicism reminiscent of Katherine Anne Porter's work. A unnamed narrator recollects her girlhood in Denmark, on a farm in Vrangbaek near Skagen, where she and her beloved brother, Jesper, live with their hymn-writing mother, carpenter father and stern grandfather. The family falls on hard times when their grandfather hangs himself, leaving behind the explanation, "I can't go on any longer." But the young girl endures the changes in her life, including the new rancor of the Nazi occupation of Denmark, by finding security and hope in her deepening relationship with Jesper. She and Jesper sense there is no future in Denmark and long to go elsewhere: she yearns for the cold stillness of Siberia, he for the desert tumult of Morocco. Jesper, a vivacious and sharp idealist ("I'm no peasant, I'm a proletarian," he shouts at the local baron), opens his innocent sister's eyes to the diminishing possibilities and hypocrisies of life in North Jutland. When the Nazis invade, Jesper joins the resistance and, under suspicion, flees to Morocco, leaving his worshipful sister behind. Instead of fulfilling her own goal of a Siberian idyll, she swallows her disappointment and her dreams of travel. Although Petterson addresses the impact of WWII, alluding to the resistance movement and the coexistence of gentile and Jewish Danes, the novel focuses on the profusion of little moments shaping the beauty and pathos of a stagnant life. In an infinitely sad but translucent ending in the vein of Porter's "Pale Horse, Pale Rider," the narrator says, "I was so young then, and I remember thinking: I'm twenty-three-years-old, there is nothing left in life. Only the rest." (Apr.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

The realization of life's unfulfilled dreams is the theme of this beautifully written novel, which recounts the unnamed narrator's childhood and adolescence in a small Danish town. She dearly loves her brother, Jesper, the only person in her family she cares about. Her rigid, intolerant parents are unresponsive to her need for affection, scarred by the suicide of her grandfather and her mother's Christianity. Then the Germans bring World War II to their quiet world, and life changes. Jesper joins the underground and is forced to flee the Gestapo. Our narrator continues to dream of escape to Siberia, which in her imagination is an idyllic place where her wishes come true and she is happy. In the final pages, she comes to the realization that her parents are more intolerant than ever, her beloved brother is dead, and she will never be able to fulfill her dream. The author of a story collection and an earlier novel, Norwegian writer Petterson is an outstanding talent. Highly recommended.√ĄLisa Rohrbaugh, East Palestine Memorial P.L., OH (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.